Preliminary idea established! I feel content.

15 Aug

Tossing and turning in my bed at 8.30am I contemplate the schedule for today and as I do so I drift of back to sleep. Waking at 9.30am I scrape myself out of bed and have a revitalising shower. Jumping out of the shower, I dress and move to my bedroom. Here I look at the work I did yesterday, some may say that it was little work for the amount of time that I spent on it but in my opinion it was plenty and of quality. While I look through the 6 pages of colourful brainstorms and tables I establish what the main task is for today; I must complete SMART objectives for each of the ideas but the idea of doing this overwhelms me. I struggled yesterday so how will I manage to do them today? Motor speaks out ‘stop overthinking the task. You do not have to have the final objectives and you can come back to them and alter them at any point. Come on! Have faith in yourself; you can do this!’ Good old motor improves my mood instantly and I tell myself to go about the task in a relaxed and happy manner.

By 11.30am I am in the kitchen listening to the radio envisaging the outcome of the next few hours. I have already cleaned the kitchen and living room so they do not need to be put into today’s schedule. I place my notepad on the table and lay the Berol® pens out in a uniform line. I set myself one task: look at the aims created yesterday and establish how you will achieved these by setting SMART Objectives. Before work starts I walk over to the kettle, flick the switch and wait for it to boil while I demolish a bowl of Weetabix. A bowl of Weetabix later I am sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea by my side. Work begins.

By 1.40pm I have created 8 objectives for one idea and I begin to question my objective setting ability. I do not have faith in my ability to do this and I really wish I could see, or at least talk to a member of university staff but, no, we cannot see anyone until we enrol at the end of September/ early October. Motor reminds me that I am making progress and that the work I am doing now can be improved at a later stage. I must continue but first I get up of my chair and boogie to the song on the radio. By the time the song finishes I am sat back at the table attempting to create objectives for me second idea.

It only takes me half an hour to form objectives for my second idea and my mood has improved. I do not give myself the chance to get distracted as I progress to my final idea.

2.50pm and I have made a decent amount of progress with objective setting. Despite now having a good set of example objectives for each idea I still feel that I need to break some of these down to make them SMART. However, is it a good use of my time doing this for every idea, or, is it more reasonable to wait until I have decided on which idea I want to use for my dissertation? This is a question I need to think about. My mind cannot decide…I take a break.

My break lasts half an hour. Back sat at the table I decide to browse the web to get a general awareness of what is already out there on each dissertation idea. Hot chocolate made I begin this search at 3.30pm.

Despite searching the web for an hour I am no further in deciding which idea to choose and I cannot come to a conclusion on whether or not I should do SMART targets for each dissertation idea. My motivation is lacking, I feel a little bit under the weather and I need a boost of energy. I stare out of the kitchen window and twiddle my thumbs for what seem like a lifetime. When I look at the clock only ten minutes has passed.

Radio back on, I begin to examine the work in my notepad. Motor sets me a task: write the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and limitations (SWOL) for each idea. I get started… 5:30pm and I have done SWOL for my ideas and numbered them in order of preference. I think I have made me decision; I now have a preliminary idea with two alternatives to fall back on. I sit back in my chair and sigh a breath of relief; coming to this decision has taken me a long time but I think my preliminary idea is the one that will be both challenging and achievable.

Now I am left with the question ‘How do I progress from here?’ To answer this I decide to read some online advice and Williams’s ‘planning your dissertation’ book, along with other dissertation planning guides. I come to the conclusion that I need to plan out my research and the proposal. This conclusion invites me to browse textbooks and the web for hints and tips. I take my time doing this and at 8pm I take a break to make myself something to eat.

The clock now reads 9:40pm; I think I am going to take it steady for the rest of the evening because I do not feel 100% committed and ready to move onto the next stages. As I ponder about what to do I notice that Williams’s book is in near reach; I begin to read part 2, titled planning your research but after a couple of pages I feel like it is not giving me the answers that I am looking for. I put the book to one side and continue my internet search, adding hints and tips to a Microsoft word document.

At 11:30pm I stop. Looking at the Microsoft word document I feel I have simplified the next steps within my dissertation journey. Tomorrow I will use this newly formed document to help me move forward with my research plan/proposal. I even learned about Gantt charts which seem really useful for long-term planning.

This evening ends with me reading over the work I have completed and  I remember that I have succeeded in deciding on my preliminary idea.

I feel content.

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A great end to an unproductive couple of days. Tonight I go to sleep smiling.

14 Aug

Progress came to a halt and motor did not speak to me for two days. This saddened me and as a result I spent many hours staring and procrastinating; staring blankly into the distance, thinking about absolutely nothing of significance, and fulfilling other, more intriguing tasks that do not relate to my dissertation. You will be pleased to know however some of the procrastination hours were spent relaxing with the people I love releasing both joy and ease.

Today I wake at 10.30am and the first thing that springs to mind is that I have to do my supermarket shop. I pull myself out of bed and drag myself to the shower. While I shower Motor, who has been silent as of late, begins to talk to me ‘Today you will take it one step at a time, you will set yourself a goal and achieve it. This will make you feel content and you will go to bed smiling’. This in itself makes me feel positive about the day ahead.

Arriving at the supermarket at 11.30 am I still feel motor pushing me to have a productive day. As I walk around the supermarket I think about the previous two days and as mentioned above they were not productive. Reflecting makes me realise that today has to be successful, I must make some progress and I must allow the worries to escape from me.

Time passes quickly and the journey home begins at 12:50pm. I use the bus journey home to switch off from dissertation related thoughts. Radio on, newspaper in hand, I delve into another world of criminals and celebrities (yes that is all there ever seems to be in modern-day news).

When I arrive home at 1.30pm I dedicate an hour to unpack my shopping and stick up my mid-year annual planner onto my bedroom wall.

2.30pm: it is time to get my head around doing some work towards my dissertation. I am at the planning stage for the research proposal or should I say at the stage of attaining my preliminary idea and its aim and objectives. To do this I have to think of aims and objectives for each idea that I have gathered, as this will eliminate the weaker of the bunch. Motor speaks, ‘set yourself todays tasks and break them down. You should look at Williams’s book (the one mentioned in the previous blog) because she will help you by providing you with workshops to complete’. I set myself three main tasks. Task 1: Complete some of the activities in Williams’s book; Task 2: answer questions from other dissertation prep books; and finally Task 3: create aims and objectives for each idea.

Task 1 begins at 2.50pm. I am working from the kitchen table today because I need to be free from distraction and, yes, this is the only place in my house where there are no distractions that allow for procrastination. Before work begins I walk over to the radio and tune it to a decent station. Back sat down at the table I position my Berol® pens north-east of me in a uniform line and my notepad is directly in front of me. My brain activates.

It is 4pm and I am progressing well; both tasks 1 and 2 have merged together. I have defined the research task and how to do it (this was an activity set on page 3 of Williams’s book) and I have extended this by brainstorming, for each idea, why it is of interest, the implications, who, what and how. A break is needed before I go onto the next activity set in Williams’s book. So far my mood is staying positive and I am even feeling slightly enthusiastic about the future of my dissertation.

A hot chocolate (a caramel flavoured one today) and a slice of toast later the work continues.

I put the cap back onto the blue Berol® pen, sit back in my chair, sigh a little and look at the time on the cooker; it is 6:15pm and I have completed all of the activities in Williams’s book for the initial topic building stage, meaning I have achieved tasks 1 and 2 for today. I spread the 4 sheets of paper out in front of me and I examine the progress I have made. I sit examining these for 10 minutes while I begin to think about task 3. From completing the former tasks I have broken down my ideas but the next challenge is to create aims and objectives for these. Motivation and dedication has somewhat deteriorated so I pull myself away from the work for 5 minutes. Within these 5 minutes I walk around the house and eat strawberries while I listen to Motor. By 6.30pm I am sat back at the table with newly found motivation. Motor made me aware that I have already come a long way today and that the next step is a big one; one that will help me determine my preliminary dissertation idea which will be transformed into a research proposal. The radio is still on and I sing and move along to the current song, ‘It must have been love’ by Roxette, joyfully whilst disregarding the task ahead of me. As the song finishes I transfer my motivation back to task 3 and inner dedication activates.

One and a half hours later and I decide it is time for my evening meal. I make myself honey-soy glazed salmon with salad. My mind sticks with the dissertation preparation throughout the evening meal period and I keep thinking about how I will extend the work that I have completed so far. I try to tell myself to switch of for 10 minutes but task 3 keeps popping into my mind because I have not yet completed it.

9:30pm I have transferred myself to the living room because my parents have gone up to bed and I want to feel a bit more relaxed; oh and, before I forget to mention, the salmon was delicious. Referring back to today’s progress I can tell you that task 3 is still in the process of being completed. Before my evening meal I had gathered 4 aim examples for each idea, so I guess that just leaves me with the task of establishing some objectives for these. I am feeling a tad resilient, I do not have the dedication that I had earlier. But Motor told me that I would feel content if I achieve all my set tasks, hence why I must plough on through. Web browser open I search SMART objectives and open various links to get a deeper understanding of what it is I need to do. Half an hour passes…I still feel confused because my mind will not focus. Motor comes alive by telling me, ‘get a grip; do a brainstorm from the information on the web searches and break it down; look at examples and then use the newly formed knowledge to create your own objectives. Do no worry about them being perfect at this stage. You have plenty of time to alter and improve them’. Responding to motor I pull my collection of colourful Berol® pens out of my pencil-case, lay them out to my left hand side along with my notepad. I begin by going back to the web searches regarding SMART objectives.

11:35pm and I am ready to break of from this objective setting. I cannot do it tonight, my mind has railed away from it and I do not feel dedicated. A brainstorm breaking down the aspects of SMART objectives has been formed and I have explored some examples online; this should prepare me for when I come to set some objectives tomorrow.

The mere fact that I have not completed task 3 does not cause me to worry or feel dissatisfied. Motor reassures me stating, ‘You have spent a good amount of time working on your ideas and you have gathered a better understanding of where you are heading with your dissertation/research proposal. Be pleased with today’s achievements and complete task 3 tomorrow when you feel more awake and able to do so. You have at least researched SMART objectives and this will stand you in good stead when it comes to preparing some of your own tomorrow’.

I will be going to bed free from worry because I know that I have done the best that I can today. I have not spent the full day procrastinating and I have made a decent amount of progress in a relaxed, stress free manner.

Today has given me a sense of direction and I feel positive regardless of the uncompleted task.

Tonight I go to sleep smiling.

A productive day? Today an idea was born.

11 Aug

I wake at midday and choose to postpone movement from my bed for half an hour. Tossing and turning I begin to think about the tasks that lay ahead of me. Task 1: hoover up; Task 2: clean the kitchen; Task 3: think of a dissertation idea; Task 4: formulate a brainstorm; Task 5: search the web to further explore my dissertation idea (note to self: do not to get distracted by internet clothes shopping). Breaking down the tasks gives me order to my day but will I succeed in completing all the tasks and is cleaning the house really a priority? At this early stage I think I can allow cleaning to take priority as for me a clean house means a clean mind.

My inner motivator, who I name motor tells me, ‘Lying in bed is not productive, it is now afternoon, you need to get up, get a shower (which will make you feel 100 times better than you do now), hoover the room, clean the kitchen and begin work on your dissertation. You can do this, take it one step at a time. Remember success is dedication’. I listen to motor and scrape myself out of my bed. Walking to the shower I feel a sense of happiness and commitment while thinking about what motor said to me. I smile, jump into the shower and sing blissfully (singing random sentences which do not link to any known song). Ten minutes later I am downstairs completing tasks 1 and 2, which takes me a matter of minutes.

It is 1pm when I feel ready to sit down to begin work on formulating a research idea. Notepad by my side I sit on the sofa thinking about what interests me in relation to Early Years. I am home alone so I feel I can work downstairs without distraction. I stare across the room, an intense feeling of dread rides over me and my motivation deteriorates. Why? Because I am over thinking the task ahead. I open my notepad and look at the page full of words and doodles that was created yesterday. Motor tells me ‘this is your starting point. Take this as the beginning and use it to generate ideas. They will be something on this page that sparks an interest. Pick the key ideas out and place them onto a new A4 sheet’. I follow motors instructions by opening my notepad to a new page. I lay it so it faces landscape and I place my variety of coloured Berol® pens at the side of me. Scanning yesterday’s sheet of A4 paper I begin to pick out the key terms that spark an interest. Half an hour passes and I look at my newly formed dissertation ideas sheet. I see there are 10 key themes; I examine the themes deeply and pick one that allows for two ideas to be established. How do I go about extending these? A brainstorm for each of course.

It is now 3pm. I have gathered two ideas under one main theme. Looking at my notepad I can see two colourful brainstorms. I feel a sense of relief but I do not feel 100% satisfied with the work I have completed. My mind cannot come to a good overall conclusion of each idea, I cannot think realistically about what it is I am wanting to achieve. It is time for a break.

I stroll into the kitchen and flick the switch on the kettle and wait for it to boil. I am stood there deliberating the next step to take in summing up my two brainstorms. Should I think of a one line sentence for each, or, should I look into them more thoroughly via the online library catalogue search? The kettle bubbles and the boil concludes, I make myself a mint hot chocolate and take myself back into the living room.

Notepad back in front of me, hot chocolate by my side, I take each brainstorm one at a time and sum the ideas up into one sentence. This task only takes me half an hour. Brainstorms summed up it is time to delve deeper and browse secondary resources.

Task 5 begins but I have little motivation. I feel distracted from the task at hand and all I want to do is break of from it.

Now at 9pm I am sat feeling overwhelmed. I have browsed the internet and the university online library catalogue which has resulted in me coming to the conclusion that there is information out there on both ideas. I begin to question the next steps to take. Do I form aims and objectives for one of the ideas, or both? Do I write down why I want to do this, what I want to find out and how I plan to answer my research question? The uncertainty is a heavy weight on my shoulder and I feel a desperate need to give in for today. Motor begins to talk to me again, telling me to carry on and read the ‘planning your dissertation’ book by Kate Williams. I follow motors instruction in a half-hearted manner.

Twenty minutes passes. I have read to page 26 and inner motivation has returned. Williams provides a step-by-step guide to help the reader along their dissertation journey and this instantly provides comfort. To add to this the guide offers the opportunity to complete questions and workshops to allow for deep thinking. This in itself relaxes me and I tell myself to complete these workshops for both dissertation ideas. Another bonus feature of Williams’s book is its size- it is small enough to put into your handbag. I would say, from this short read, that this book is going to be one of my lifelines throughout my dissertation journey.

Despite being unsure on the next steps to take I have achieved today’s goal. I plan to follow by completing Williams’s workshops and by translating deeper thoughts into aims and objectives.

The transition to my bedroom has been made. I feel tired and overwhelmed but motor reassures me that today has been a successful day.

Today an idea, be it more than one, has been born.

Anxious beginnings.

10 Aug

At first the word ‘dissertation’ brings mixed emotions: I panic, I stress, I become anxious and I start to over think the challenge ahead. How do we, as final year undergraduates, deal with our final year research project? Some will take to it like a duck to water but others will hide away.

Sitting there with my pen and paper I begin to think irrationally. Thoughts come and go and ideas are countless; Ideas that are too broad, ideas that are too vast, ideas that are unachievable but never an idea that is of interest and feasible. Throwing my notepad to one side I begin to procrastinate. The channel 4 documentary seems a lot more appealing. I think to myself ‘No, no, no! Procrastinating at this stage is not a good sign. Stop. Think about this, motivate yourself, giving up at the first challenge is not the way forward’. I leave the TV on and place the notepad on my lap, looking and feeling solemn, I pick my pen up and begin to break down my thoughts. Half an hour passes and the page in front of me is still blank. Ok, so I am getting no where. Should I call it a day or should I brainstorm everything that comes to mind? I answer the former by beginning to jot down every thought that flashes above my eyes. Every thought is an image: an image involving words, thought bubbles, and either a big tick or cross saying yes or no to an idea. I stop, it has been an hour since I began to write my thoughts down, and I notice the A4 page in front of me is full of randomized words and doodles (some erased by the overuse of a pen scribble). Is this called progress or is it a failing? Quite evidently this is progress. Getting my thoughts down is the start, it has allowed me to reduce my anxieties and worries. It has allowed me to create a set of ideas to choose from.
Is this the start of something emotionally challenging but incredibly rewarding?